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A Kid’s Guide to Being More Energy Efficient


Energy exists all around us. Kids and grownups get energy from food. Once food converts to energy in the body it gives them the strength and resources to go to school or work, and to use their brains and bodies to get things done. Another kind of energy comes from other sources so that people have electricity, can drive cars, trains and automobiles. Energy also gives people light, heat and the ability to make the things that they need. Some scientists, called quantum physicists, explain that everything in the universe is made up of energy.

Energy comes in different forms. The different kinds of energy include heat or thermal energy, light or radiant energy, electrical, chemical and nuclear energy. Some scientists talk about gravitational energy, the potential energy associated with the energy field around the earth. Gravitational energy keeps people on the planet instead of spinning off into space.

Human beings use both nonrenewable and renewable energy from different sources. Nonrenewable energy cannot be replaced; once it is used up there is no more. Nonrenewable energy includes oil, natural gas, coal and uranium. Renewable energy comes from the sun, the wind, water and inside the earth. Some scientists study other means of renewable energy. These include taking energy from plants or plant materials, and taking energy from the waves in the ocean.

The studies done by scientists show us that energy first appeared when the Universe did. When the Universe exploded into being with a Big Bang, energy was born. The first energy was mostly hot; some energy became stars, but other energy, as it cooled, became the matter that makes up planets and moons. Because everything is made from energy, scientists have classified the energy into two types, working energy, also called kinetic energy and stored energy, also called potential energy. Working energy constantly moves, while potential energy waits to be used. For example, if you have a ball on the floor and roll it, kinetic energy keeps it moving until it runs out. But if you lift the ball and put it on your desk, the energy of lifting the ball adds potential energy to it. If it falls from the desk, the potential energy in the ball makes it roll farther.

Utility companies generate electricity by using fossil fuels in the form of oil, coal and natural gas. Some power companies also user the energy found in moving water. Dams that generate electricity have special water turbines, or rotary engines, that make electricity as water falls from the dam. Some utility companies also use special windmills to make electricity. As the wind turns the blades of the windmill, a small machine on the windmill converts the wind’s energy into electricity. Utility companies also use the energy of the sun, solar energy, to create electricity.

It takes energy to drive cars, operate trains, fly airplanes and run machines. It even takes energy in the form of food to power people. Energy is important to everything that exists. Without energy, things wouldn’t happen. People wouldn’t be able to make machines to produce the things used in everyday life. It takes energy to make everything. This includes the clothes people wear, the shoes on their feet and even the computer used for homework.

Some of the sources of energy used have a bad effect on the environment. When coal, oil and gas make energy, the byproduct creates gases that get released into the environment. This causes pollution and can affect the climate of the whole world. Scientists all around the globe study the effects of energy usage on the environment. When nonrenewable energy is used, such as coal, oil, gas and uranium, these energy sources can also make a waste that is harmful to the earth, plants and animals and even humans if not disposed of correctly. That’s one of the reasons many people, companies and scientists try to find better ways to use energy from renewable sources such as the sun, wind, and water. These sources are called clean energy because they don’t pollute the environment or harm living things.

People and scientists also study ways to make things more energy efficient. The government created a program called Energy Star. Appliances and machines that are energy efficient can have the Energy Star label on them because they use less energy to operate than appliances that don’t get to wear the star. The less nonrenewable energy sources used by machines the better it is for everything that lives on the earth. Kids can help by being energy efficient too. Before leaving a room, turn off the light. When no one’s in the room but the light is on, it wastes energy. Other ways kids can help is by turning off video games when not in use. Also turn off cell phones, computers and even the television when it is not being used to save energy.

Another way kids can help is by recycling. Companies can make things from old cans, plastic, glass and newspapers. Recycling helps to conserve valuable resources. To recycle, use special trash bins. Set up a special trash bin for cans, one for bottles, one for plastics with a special mark on them — a triangle with a number inside it — and one for newspapers or cardboard. Kids can learn how to be an energy hog buster by recycling and turning off the power to things when not in use.

To find out more about energy, click on any of the links below:

Science Fair Projects — — Pick a science fair project from a list of experiments. Most of these experiments use items found at home.

Student’s Guide to Geothermal Energy — Learn about how geothermal energy can make electricity and keep homes warm.

Earth Needs Your Help — Ways that you can help save energy and be more energy efficient.

Smart Energy — The changes in energy over the last 100 years. Learn all about smart energy.

Nuclear Energy — Learn all about how nuclear energy is created.

Energy Hog Buster — Ways you can help save energy and bust the energy hog.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory — Steps to build a model solar car that works. (PDF)

San Diego County Kid’s Energy Page — Word searches, games and puzzles on energy — for kids only.

Energy Story — The energy story lets you see how much you know about energy.

Renewable Energy — Sources for renewable energy around the world.

National Energy Education Project — Make any one of these many science projects for your next science fair or class project.

Minnesota Energy Challenge for Kids — Ways kids can be energy efficient at home and school.

Kid Wind Project — Wind power and how it works to create energy.

Air Quality — How pollution and energy affect air quality.

The States of Energy — Discover the different states of energy.

Thermodynamics — The laws of how heat, energy and work affect a system.

Energy Hog Challenge — Find out where energy comes from, how it works and ways to save it. (PDF)

Electricity Generation — A kid’s slideshow on the different geothermal sources that help to generate electricity.

Coloring Activity Book — Color the pages and learn about saving energy at home. (PDF)

Energy Jokes — Energy efficiency teams favorite kid’s energy jokes.

Fossil Fuels — Discover how much you know about fossil fuels. (PDF)

Save Energy — How saving energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps the planet.

All About Energy — Discover the types of energy and their uses.

Potential Energy — Study the effects of potential energy and what it means. (PDF)

Utah Geological Survey — All about the fossil fuels from dinosaurs in Utah.

Power Up! — How energy gets used in people’s everyday lives.

Oil and Gas Seeps — What they are and where they were found in California.

Making Electricity — How the Tennessee Valley Authority makes electricity for people to use.

Energy’s Birth — Energy is as old as the universe, it’s over 17 billion years old.

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